When Tampa Bay Times Food Critic Laura Reiley pronounced that CopperFish Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar may be the best new Tampa restaurant of 2013, I sat up and took notice. Ms. Reiley has never steered me wrong before and if she was saying CopperFish was good, I had to go. Plain and simple.
Once upon a time I used to live down the street from where CopperFish is located in the noisy, free for all, food and drink loving "South of Howard Avenue" section of South Tampa - which some call SoHo. (And for some people who have actually been to SoHo areas in NYC and London, trying to call anyplace in South Tampa SoHo is a bit comical.)
I moved in to my overpriced apartment in the "SoHo" area of South Tampa and in return for crazy expensive rent, I received a coupon for a free bottle of wine at a restaurant called St. Bart's Island House. My beloved friend Ms. DDR accompanied me on a long roadtrip from Minneapolis to Tampa in a tiny Nissan 200SX SE with three cats in the back seat. (I believe that is referred to as "the luxury sport package" model of this particular Nissan.) Any friend who helps me move cross-country deserves a bottle of wine.
(Hopefully my friend "Decadent Cutie" doesn't read this because he'll be demanding a bottle of wine from road tripping from Cleveland to Los Angeles with me on my move to California.)
We had dinner at St. Bart's Island House and I was in love - fresh fish and a mango Napoleon dessert that was so good I wanted to slap someone. Unfortunately St. Bart's Island House closed and became the new location of Ceviche restaurant. Not as good but I still went there quite frequently, especially for fabulous Sunday brunches with a not-so-fabulous boyfriend. Then Ceviche moved to a new location in South Tampa and the spot became "The Samba Room." When I first moved to Tampa, "The Samba Room" was located where Timpano Chophouse is today. It closed before I was able to try it back then and history repeated itself as the new Samba Room closed before I could visit.
Now the location is CopperFish Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar and I have to say, I hope this restaurant sticks around because Tampa Bay Times Food Critic Laura Reiley was right once again - the food here is FABULOUS.
My friend "Ms. Chicago" spent the Fourth of July weekend in Boston and Maine and fiendishly would post pictures of mouthwatering one pound lobster rolls. Unfortunately I find the lobster rolls in Tampa to be "ehhhh" and usually disappointing. So when I saw that CopperFish has a lobster roll on its menu, I was cautiously optimistic.
I told Ms. Chicago it was a moral imperative that she come to dinner with me.
First, I must say that the restaurant has been completely redesigned and looks completely different than previous incarnations. The air is smoky and sweet from what I assume is a woodfire grill. I love the light fixtures and the aged wood accents.
Our server was a tall, extremely friendly man named Nicholas. If all of CopperFish's waitstaff has the customer service skills as Nicholas, then they are going to do well. It's been a long time since I had great customer service at a restaurant. Nicholas took time to explain the menu, make thoughtful recommendations and had impeccable timing on when to check in with us to make sure our meal was moving along nicely and that we were fully happy with everything. Five stars for service alone, CopperFish.
There was a private event at CopperFish and I had to circle the block four times before being able to pull into the long valet line. Needless to say, I needed a cocktail after that craziness.
I started with the Pink Vespa - G French Vodka, Peach Liqueur, Rhubarb Bitters and Pineapple Juice. I first announced that my drag name is going to be Rhubarb Bitters and then I took a sip of the cocktail. A pink fluffy cloud of heaven in a glass.
Our server, Nicholas explained that their seafood is day boat fresh - as in caught that morning. You can absolutely taste the freshness in the seafood. Ms. Chicago and I both ordered the lobster roll that comes with a pickle and a side of Old Bay seasoned potato chips.
The lobster was so fresh tasting and silky tender, I felt like it had been poached in a Barbra Streisand song - pure butter melty deliciousness. It came in a very light mayonnaise-style based sauce that did not hide any of the lobster flavor. The toasted open top bun was very traditional, but a little too thick for my liking. I like my lobster to bread ratio to be very lobster-heavy.
CopperFish's lobster roll is absolutely the best lobster roll I have ever had in Tampa Bay.
The Old Bay seasoned potato chips were delicious - not too heavy on the seasoning, just a light sprinkle that hits the back of your tongue.
Ms. Chicago insisted we also order the sea salt and vinegar potato planks, proving why she is a friend of mine!
These potato planks were the longest pieces of potato I have ever seen. They were incredibly fluffy and had a great sea salt taste. I would have liked a bit more malt vinegar flavor, but overall they were quite delicious.
Time for another cocktail - this time I tried the "Summer Rain" which sounds a little too much like a ladies' hygiene product for my taste. Lemon tea, lavender simple syrup and fresh lemon. It was tart but not my favorite cocktail.
For dessert, Ms. Chicago had the ginger spice cake with caramelized peaches, ginger citrus caramel and vanilla ice cream. Ms. Chicago loved this dessert. I thought it had a nice autumn/winter taste but it seemed weird to see on a July menu.
Being a berry shortcake fan (have you read my post "A Tale of Three Shortcakes"?), I ordered the "seasonal berries poached in citrus vanilla bean, sweetened cream and biscuit" dessert. The biscuit to berry ratio was waaaaaaay off. The biscuit was super huge with an OK taste but nothing special. It was drizzled in honey which was absolutely not necessary. The vanilla ice cream was delicious but the sweetened housemade whipped cream had a viscous taste to it as if a thickener or gelatin had been added. It tasted gummy and not fresh.
|A lot of biscuit and whipped cream, not a lot of berries.|
I would have liked the biscuit to be a lot smaller and more gourmet - maybe fresh ground pink Tellicherry pepper baked in or lavender or fresh basil. I would have liked a lot more berries - keep the ice cream and find me some better whipped cream and this dessert would have been out of this world.
I definitely will go back to CopperFish - their menu is chock full of great seafood dishes that I cannot wait to try. If you're looking for delicious fresh seafood, check out CopperFish Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar.